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The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story Audiobook

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story

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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world's most ruthless and secretive dictatorships - and the story of one woman's terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom, and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life.

Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed, surely her country could not be, as she had been told "the best on the planet".

Aged 17, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she was reunited with her family.

She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities - involving imprisonment, torture and possible public execution.

Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. And 12 years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.

This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo's escape from the darkness into the light but also of her coming of age and education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life - not once but twice - first in China then in South Korea. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.

©2015 Hyeonseo Lee (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

What the Critics Say

"The most riveting TED talk ever." (Oprah)

"This is a powerful story of an escapee from North Korea. In the hallowed meeting rooms of the United Nations in New York, ambassadors from North Korea recently sought to shout down stories like this. But these voices will not be silenced. Eventually freedom will be restored. History will vindicate Hyeonseo Lee and those like her for the risks they ran so that their bodies and their minds could be free. And so that we could know the truth." (Michael Kirby, chair of the UN commission on human rights abuses in North Korea)

"When I first met Hyeonseo Lee, the unflinching manner in which she told her story was inspirational. She experienced hunger, coldness, fear, terror, threats and pursuit. All this she had to endure, simply for being a North Korean refugee. But the one thing that she held on to was her humanity, ever stronger as she continuously sublimated her hardships into hope. This is a sad and beautiful story of a girl who could not even keep her name, yet overcome all with the identity of what it is to be human." (Jang Jin-sung, author of Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.8 (440 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 01-20-17 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Great Book"

    this was an amazing story! the only think that threw me was the European accent of the narrator; it initially annoyed me considering this is the story of a Korean woman, however she is very clear and not dull. great book!!!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SF Boston, Massachusetts 12-18-16
    SF Boston, Massachusetts 12-18-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "Great!"
    Where does The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    SPOILERS: Since living in South Korea (ROK), I've grown an affinity for books on North Korea (DPRK). This is a decent book on the subject. It doesn't give a lot of detail on life in North Korea during the "difficult times" but the author describes scenes and memories no child should.

    Even Lee's escape from North Korea isn't a big deal. She simply tells a border guard she's going across. It was completely unplanned. Her escape from China to Shanghai was also uneventful. Lee just takes a flight. There are others who have much more grueling escapes. However, there is no doubt that it is an absolute challenge to do what she did and there is nothing to take away from that!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story?

    SPOILER: The author describing the man that hit his head after riding under the train and cracking his skull; just unimaginable but so nonchalant for the people at the time.


    What three words best describe Josie Dunn’s performance?

    Distracting, not researched


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    How far would you go for family?


    Any additional comments?

    The British accent on Dunn's performance is somewhat distracting as an American listener. It is very strong and nothing that I would expect a North Korean to sound like. It slightly takes away from the story.

    The other issue is that the producers must of have done little research into how to pronounce the names in the book. Having lived in Seoul, Shanghai and traveled through Laos, dated a Laotian; it is mind-numbing to listen to half of these simple pronunciations.

    I am no stickler for languages, but the names are so simple. The reader even gets the author's name wrong; pronouncing it Yeonseo with a "y" instead of Hyeonseao with an "hy". I mean: that's the author's name, how do you not research how to say that?!

    Other names that I can remember that were pronounced incorrectly: Pyongyang, Harbin (city in China), Laos( The country had no "s" sound, although the author pronounced the language as "Lao" instead of Laotian, the normal nomenclature, but mispronounced the country.) Vientiane (The capital of Laos). She did however pronounce Shanghai correctly, perhaps because of her British accent of a short "ah" sound to shang.

    All of that really took me out of the story from time to time. The author also mocks male characters, usually "bad" ones that are Korean or Chinese military guards or police. These accents are borderline cockney and just bizarre. She also mocks an American boyfriend of Lee's and that is just awful.

    So, in short, at least as an American, the strong British accent just really seems wrong and does take away from the story from time to time.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Grace 09-26-15
    Grace 09-26-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Five stars"
    Would you listen to The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story again? Why?

    I hardly ever give a book 5 stars and this is my first review but this book is unbelievable, I could barely put it down. This book is a page turner and even though you know the outcome, your heart pounds as you read her journey and that of her family. It is sad at times but overall, an empowering story of strength.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill 04-15-17
    Bill 04-15-17 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Outstanding"

    Well written. Grabbed my attention from beginning to end. It really opened my eyes to the reality of a dystopian world some people are trapped in.
    As a westerner I cannot truly appreciate all I am blessed with and allowed because I expect noting less. This book brought home how some in the world expect nothing more than a daily battle of wits for survival.
    I would highly recommend this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniela Cortes 10-09-15 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the greatest books I've ever read"

    The story of people from North Korea is outstanding. It is hard to believe that at this present time there are still countries run by dictators.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-09-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Eye opening, gripping, informative and emotional"

    My husband and I listened to this audio book over the course of our car travels. We got to the point where we were yearning for long car rides just so that we could list to this book. Until now, we never knew of the indoctrination of North Koreans from birth. Hyepnseo was so incredibly brace and determined in every part of her journey. We would love to see a sequel about her journeys after South Korea!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Quinn 10-09-17 Member Since 2017
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    "How This Book Helped me to Understand the Lives of the People in the Worlds most Secretive State"

    Hello. I would like to start this off by saying that I liked this book very much. I live in a small town of a little more than eight thousand people in the USA. I have recently turned thirteen and have an extreme desire to learn more about the lives of the North Korean people. I liked this book because I was able to learn about a specific life story of someone who was born and raised in arguably the most oppressive and isolated nation on Earth. It made me a million times more grateful for my life in America. I would recommend anyone who wants to know about the DPRK to give this story a try. It might change their view on this important issue, and it definitely helped to change mine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brie W. 10-04-17
    Brie W. 10-04-17
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    2
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    "Couldn’t stop listening"

    This book was an eye opening experience to understand what it was like to grow up and live in North Korea. I would highly recommend

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail 10-03-17
    Gail 10-03-17
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "Despite the British accent, please still listen!!"

    Even though I disagree with the mistake of using a British narrator instead of an Asian reader, the book is well worth getting used to the accent.
    This is an astonishing account of Hyeonseo Lee's journey to freedom. I've read a lot of North Korean escapee memoirs and this one is right up there with most of them. Hers has a different twist than others, so I found it very captivating. (Not that all aren't!!)
    Her story is well written and it was intriguing to drink in the mindset of a more wealthy, basically happy person who lives there. This came to light when she reveals how the childhood ingrained, propaganda depicting North Korea as the "The Greatest Country On Earth" conflicted with her seeing people die in the government sanctioned famine of the 90's where millions died.

    (POSSIBLE SPOILER, BUT MEANT TO ENTICE)

    Hyeonseo did not plan on defecting from North Korea. She lived in a border town, and with teenage naivete, her plan was to cross over and come back in a few days.This made her story an anomaly, different than others who secretly planned, fought hard and risked their lives to leave for good, though not much less horrible was her dilemma.
    Also, being she spent a long time in China after leaving her country, I learned more about the plights of the North's defectors in China, which was more in depth than other books I've read because she spent more time eluding the authorities than other authors did.
    Each time I listen or read North Korea's defectors' stories, my mind is more convinced that truth needs to get to the average citizen who lives there....somehow!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat Chapel Hill 10-03-17
    Pat Chapel Hill 10-03-17 Member Since 2017
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    6
    6
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    Story
    "What it's like to defect from North Korea."

    Fascinating story of a young woman who defects from North Korea, fleeing first to China and then to South Korea. She describes what it's like to grow up in North Korea, brainwashed by the government who tell the populace that North Korea is the best country in the world -- and they believe it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Hoskins
    Salles, France
    10/17/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic"

    What an excellent book. I just couldn’t stop listening to it. The world knows about North Korea but to hear how people live in such a repressive society it both sad and shocking. Also how other people make a profit in other people’s desperation to escape.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • npsmith
    10/8/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "excellent"

    I actually felt the nerves for her during this book to the point of saying "good luck" aloud at one point, whilst listening A very moving account. well narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen W.
    8/31/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant and Moving"

    A truly gripping and emotional read which offers amazing insight into a hidden and wicked world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • reader101
    8/14/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story, gripping & educational"

    Loved the book. Incredible story. What a woman! So much courage and determination. Wasn't keen on narrators cockney second voices thought that was irritating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • FLowry
    Glasgow
    8/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I loved this book"

    I thought this book had the perfect mix
    of suspense, joy, sadness and factual information. I listened to it very quickly and enjoyed every minute.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Karen Brown
    5/20/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An amazing story of bravery and courage."

    My first time with audio and I wasn't disappointed. Josie Dunn does a great job. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Hyeonseo. A must for reading or audio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Pootle_around
    5/12/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hideous pronunciation of Mandarin!"

    Such a shame they used an English narrator who couldn't pronounce 'alias' and had a horrible intonation when pronouncing 'Mandarin'. Every time she said it, it made me want to scream. Interesting autobiography but poor narrator was distracting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jorge Hart
    5/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Best experience I've ever had without a doubt"

    If a book was a journey this was an outside of body experience. My life is so much richer for it wow wow and wow

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Heather B
    UK
    1/19/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Absolutely fascinating book/audiobook"

    I've often wondered what it must be like for the people of North Korea, after seeing coverage on TV of mass performances, marches, hysteria and weeping - alongside stories of what seemed to be a complete and utter lack of human rights for anyone other than those at the very top. I have to admit that I also wondered whether North Koreans' apparent love for their Leader was genuine (and if so why) - or if they were simply too afraid to show their real feelings. Hyeonseo Lee's book answered all those questions, and many more that hadn't even occurred to me before. I just couldn't stop listening, and was alternately amazed, shocked, uplifted, fascinated, horrified and full of awe throughout her story - which documents her childhood in North Korea, her pretty much accidental defection to China, and her incredible struggle to survive thereafter. It's an incredible story of oppression, fight for survival, widespread corruption and bribery, occasional kindness of strangers, and long struggle to help her mother and brother escape from North Korea too. Hyeonseo Lee is one courageous, tenacious and intelligent lady, and I am full of admiration for her and her story - beautifully narrated by Josie Dunn. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • ZoeK
    South Wales, UK
    12/14/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing story"
    Any additional comments?

    This is an amazing story. You can't believe what this woman had to go through. Fantastic listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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